Huge crowds in Europe, US march in solidarity with Ukraine

From Berlin to Washington DC, protesters express solidarity with Ukraine as Russia steps up assault on its neighbour.

Demonstrators take part in an anti-war protest.
Thousands of demonstrators took part in a protest in Berlin against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. [Christian Mang/Reuters]

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to streets of cities across Europe and North America to denounce Russia’s invasion of its neighbour Ukraine.

From Berlin to Prague, and Washington DC, to Saint Petersburg, protesters on Sunday chanted slogans against Russian President Vladimir Putin while others waved banners with slogans like “Putin murderer” or “stop the monster”.

In the German capital, Berlin, more than 100,000 people gathered at the Brandenburg Gate, a short distance from the Russian embassy, carrying signs reading: “Stop the War”, “Putin’s last war” and “We stand with Ukraine”.

“It is important to me for Germany to show that it is standing for democracy in Europe,” protester Hans Georg Kieler told the AFP news agency.

While praising Germany’s decision to begin delivering armaments, the 49-year-old said his country “could have helped Ukraine more”.

Ukrainian Valeria Moiseeva was also at the march.

“I hate Russia, I hate all Russians,” the pregnant 35-year-old said, adding that her mother was now sitting in a cellar in Kyiv in fear of bombs.

Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, reporting from Berlin, said the high turn-out was a “clear representation of all those people who felt moved to come to this demonstration”.

“You have political parties, all expressing their condemnation of what President Putin and his government are doing in Ukraine,” Kane said. “There appears to be a determination to do something about it in any way Germany can.”

Approximately 100,000 people attend a pro-Ukraine protest rally in Berlin, Germany
Approximately 100,000 people attend a pro-Ukraine protest rally in Berlin. [Michael Sohn/AP]

Demonstrations were also held in other European cities, with several thousand people gathering in Rome’s city centre, answering a call from Italy’s 235,000-strong Ukrainian community to rally.

“We are strong but we are alone now. One small country cannot protect the whole world from one bad person” Yvanna Bovik said.

In Prague, some 70,000 people gathered at the central Wenceslas Square, including Roman Novotny, who travelled around 300 kilometres (186 miles) from Uherske Hradiste in the country’s southeast.

“We all have to do our best,” he told AFP, carrying a banner slamming Putin. “It’s a difficult situation because the madman has nuclear weapons. I think he has cut himself off from the entire world, totally.”

In the United States, solidarity marches were held in cities including Washington DC, San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago and Kansas City. Thousands also demonstrated in the Canadian city of Toronto.

In the US capital, several thousand rallied in front of the White House, urging President Joe Biden to do more to halt Putin’s aggression.

“Something needs to be done, we can’t just sit by and have another World War Two or another Hitler take control,” said Diana Vasylkevych, a 24-year-old student wrapped in a Ukrainian flag.

“So we’re here today to just try to make a difference,” she said, adding she has spoken to relatives back home who have been hiding in bomb shelters. “It’s horrendous”.

Meanwhile, from Moscow to Siberia, Russian anti-war activists also took to the streets again on Sunday despite the arrests of hundreds of protesters each day by police.

“I have two sons and I don’t want to give them to that bloody monster. War is a tragedy for all of us,” 48-year-old Dmitry Maltsev, who joined the rally in St Petersburg, told The Associated Press.

Russian police have cracked down on the rallies and detained protesters. The Kremlin has sought to downplay the protests, insisting that a much broader share of Russians support the assault on Ukraine.

In St Petersburg, several hundred people gathered in the city centre were met by police in full riot gear, who dragged a number of protesters into police vans.

Footage from Moscow showed police throwing several female protesters on the ground before dragging them away.

According to the OVD-Info rights group that tracks political arrests, by Sunday evening police detained at least 1,474 Russians in 45 cities over anti-war demonstrations that day.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies